Thursday, 28 February 2013
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) the then Prime Minister, Mr Howard, signed an agreement on 11 June 2002 with Lockheed Martin with no public consultation or competitive tendering process for the purchase of up to 100 Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs),
(ii) the then Minister for Defence, Senator Faulkner, announced approval for the purchase of the first 14 JSFs on 25 November 2009 at a cost of around $3.2 billion, contractually committing to two,
(iii) the Australian Auditor-General confirmed in its September 2012 report That the cost for each aircraft is US$131.4 million, more than treble the initial price,
(iv) the aircraft cannot yet fly at supersonic speeds or within 25 miles of storms due to potential ignition of oxygen in the fuel tank,
(vi) the United Kingdom, the biggest investor in the JSF program, in May 2012 reduced and delayed its acquisition, and the Dutch Parliament in July 2012 voted to cancel its involvement altogether; and
(b) calls on the Government to:
(i) cancel the technically and financially infeasible JSF program,
(ii) urgently examine alternatives given the very long lead times for project development, acquisition and entry into service, and
(iii) focus Australia's Defence procurement priorities on the equipment and training required to address the defence and humanitarian challenges arising from climate change, water stress and resource depletion.
Before we commit the vote, I seek leave to make a brief statement.
I hope that we do not have to commit this one to a vote, because I am expecting unanimous support for this position. I think a handshake deal done by former Prime Minister John Howard in a Washington hotel room bypassed all Defence's normal procurement processes for one of the largest acquisitions in Australian military history. We can perhaps thank former defence minister John Faulkner for only committing us to two of these fighter jets, but this motion that the Senate will shortly put to the vote commits Australia to cancelling this disastrous program, which is vastly over budget. These aircraft can barely fly, you cannot put them within 25 miles of a storm in case the oxygen tanks explode, the software is buggy and the price has tripled. We do need to commit to an urgent inquiry into what should fill the capability gap, but I think we should commit at this point to simply abandon this disastrous, botched procurement process and pursue alternative courses of action.